Ethan Ellenberg Agency Looking For New Clients
Posted on December 14, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 72 Comments
Hey there, folks. Most of you know that my fiction is represented by the Ethan Ellenberg Agency, and has been since I’ve been selling fiction. To say that I’m happy with the work Ethan and his team do for me is understating the case — they’ve been both aggressive and savvy in getting my work out there, which is why my books are now available in fifteen languages, and Ethan and his people are trusted advisors when I think about what to write (and to try to sell) next. They know what they’re doing, I’m glad to be working with them, and I think most writers would be lucky to work with such an agency.
Which, as it happens, bring me to this next part: The Ethan Ellenberg Agency is now looking for new clients in science fiction and fantasy, so if you’re in the market for representation, this is a good time to introduce yourself. Below you’ll find a letter from Ethan, talking a little bit about the agency and its clients, and also how to bring yourself and your work to the agency’s attention.
I’m writing to introduce you to myself and my agency and let you know we are actively seeking clients in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.
We opened in 1984 and have always had an interest in both genres. We are a full service agency, representing writers at every stage of their career from unpublished through maturity. We are a very active, successful seller of translation rights with agents in all foreign markets and a track record of approximately 50 new sales per year. There is no sub right we do not represent – movie, audio, e-book, translation, United Kingdom rights.
We’re privileged to represent a number of top talents. In Science Fiction we represent Hugo winner John Scalzi; we also represent Ian Douglas whose military science fiction series for Avon have been selling well and in print for more than a decade. We recently contracted for 5 more books in these series. A recent client who is building nicely is Ed Willet, whose most recent book TERRA INSEGURO was published by Daw.
We are even more known for our representation of fantasy writers. Karen Miller is an international bestseller with publishers in Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA. We have represented Sharon Shinn from her very first book and today, twenty one books later, we still represent her. We represented Gail Martin for her first sale to Solaris and just concluded a 4 book deal with Orbit to continue her TALES OF THE NECROMANCER. We represent Mel Odom whose Tolkienesque series beginning with THE ROVER was a hit for Tor.
Our success in this area is not confined to the adult market; Karen Miller, Mel Odom, Sharon Shinn, and Ed Willet have all sold young adult fiction.
We’re actively acquiring new clients. The ideal submission for us is an introductory letter, synopsis and the first 3 chapters of manuscript. We welcome electronic submissions to email@example.com. We also welcome submission by mail with a self addressed stamped envelope for response. Please check our website (ethanellenberg.com) and follow the directions carefully so as not to fall afoul of U.S. postal regulations.
We remain upbeat, active and committed to the highest standards of professional conduct and representation. We are members in good standing of the Association of Author’s Representatives and consistently receive high marks from all the top professional writer’s organizations. We look forward to your submission.
There you have it. To repeat: I’ve been very happy with this agency, they’ve done a great job with my work, and they’ve been good people to work with. I recommend them.
I guess I am ignorant of this industry, but I would think that agencies like Ethan Ellenberg would so constantly be inundated with work from unpublished writers that solicitations like this would never be necessary. Is my perception wrong? I get the impression that their are ZILLIONS of wannabee authors out there hoping for their big break, and that Ethan Ellenberg’s problem would be filtering out the good ones rather than getting submissions in the first place.
Well, I guess I must be wrong or this post wouldn’t be here!
It’s like throwing some bloody meat into the shark-infested sea. A great rep is, or seems to be, very important.
Does this mean I can dust off my high school masterpiece BUTCH NEUTRON AND THE LEATHER BABES FROM EUROPA? I even have a blurb from the president of the math club.
“Is my perception wrong?”
I’m sure that the agency gets all sorts of submissions, yes, but in this particular case it’s looking in particular to add clients in the SF/F genres, and in such cases it certainly doesn’t hurt to spread the word in those quarters that it is actively seeking clients.
Beyond this, I think sometimes newer writers think they don’t have a shot at established agencies, so this is the agency’s way of saying “actually, yes you do.” Which I think is useful to newer writers in reminding them what’s possible for them and their work.
I’d hate to be the intern assigned to email duty today.
Thanks for the heads up.
I’ve queried the Ellenberg Agency several times in the past and met with rejections. Of course, now that I’m wiser, I know why I got those rejections, but if this doesn’t give me impetus to finish off that manuscript, nothing will.
This is obviously another attempt by Scalzi to pull up the ladder.
So close to the finish, so close. But wait! I need to write a synopsis, and a query. Stat! Oh man, I’ll never get this manuscript done.
You’re a crafty one, Scalzi, for keeping us newbies down. Oh yes, you’re a crafty one.
Paolo, it seems more like Mr. S. is helping to “build a staircase of opportunity”, not pull up the ladder. Which usually means “cut off.”
Paolo was employing sarcasm and/or irony.
paolo@7: “This is obviously another attempt by Scalzi to pull up the ladder.”
No doubt. Wasn’t it Robert Aspirin who wrote, “An agent is a vampire with a telephone”? But since I donate blood regularly anyway, I think I can spare some.
Thanks for the recommendation, John.
@TGA @9 – yes, John has the right of it.
@DaveH @11- A good agent doesn’t suck your blood, they suck everyone else’s on your behalf. I’ve made *a lot* more money thanks to mine. Go forth and find one, and may they act as a nuclear-tipped scud missile against your enemies.
This letter has been making the rounds across cyberspace for at least a couple months. They contacted my ezine Electric Spec (www.electricspec.com) as well as other spec fic ezines that we know of. However, the agency is still operating under business as usual, i.e. don’t expect to hear back from them if they’re not interested. :(
But good luck to everyone!
Paolo, I didn’t think you’d crit the man for pointing the way toward the shark tank.
I want an agent to help make me a star! Not just a star, but an epic star.
Lovely! Thanks for hand up and the kick in the pants, sir!
John, am I too cynical in thinking that you might want to include a disclaimer you aren’t recommending writer’s work to your agent, but that you are recommending your agent to writers? So that people shouldn’t be submitting along the lines of “John Scalzi has recommended me to you…” with the implication that you know our work, and approve of it. When in fact what you are saying is that you are recommending the work of your agent to us.
Damn you, Scalzi. You would have to post this when I’m in the middle of writing a Final Exam and should be grading, not thinking about sending my second novel to an agent… (grin)
Scalzi, do you have any idea how long the window for submissions is open? I’ve read over the site and the release, but can’t find that nugget.
It’s not a “window.” They’re generally open for submissions. They’re just making an extra effort to call attention to their interest at the moment.
They do not specify their formatting for manuscripts – is it safe to assume that electronic copies should follow Baen’s guidelines for submissions (here)?
Thank you for the heads up John!
Oh, fantastic. I just automatically assumed that it was a limited time endeavor to fill a quota of some sort and would shut off after a certain point.
Thanks for the clarification.
Actully this Agency does respond in the negative. Sadly I received the proof of that.
I would assume you’d use standard manuscript format and then cut and paste into e-mail.
The agency Web site says this re: Electronic submissions:
“We normally respond to email queries within two weeks. If we haven’t responded after two weeks, then we are not interested in the material.”
Hey John, does he show up at the KGB readings? If not, it’s a really good way to meet people who’re starting out. I’ll be there this weekend, and would be happy to introduce him around.
Of course, if he does, and I’ve met him and am just not placing a name with a face, I’m all shamefaced.
ah, I submitted via mail, and they did indeed let me know via my most properly included SASE.
I guess I can announce that this agency approached our ezine Electric Spec with a similar proposal to get the word out. As short fiction writers often act as a feeder pool for novelists, we loved seeing an agency think that way, too.
Cool, thank you very much for posting that. I’m still in the “write some short stories and attempt to get them published” state of my career but I’ll definitely start pitching to Ethan Ellenberg once I have something.
I note they ask for only the first three chapters in a submission. I’m curious what one should do if you don’t write in chapter format? Obviously, you wouldn’t want to send in a block of text that cuts in the middle of a scene, but is there a rough length of what 3 chapters ought to be? X number of words? Y number of pages?
@Richard: I’m in a similar situation. I write shorter chapters, rather than no chapters. I found on their page they also ask for the first 50 pages of a manuscript. And since I’m a short chapter guy (and a newbie), I figured I would opt for the 50 pages they mention so my submission is not taken as laughable.
Mr. Ellenberg was on the top of my list for my SF/Techno-thriller. I was, of course, rejected.
I’ve since followed the advice of a couple of successful authors and have cleaned-up/streamlined/debugged my query.
Thanks for posting this John, I’ll definitely try again.
#4 Scalzi wrote: ‘Beyond this, I think sometimes newer writers think they don’t have a shot at established agencies, so this is the agency’s way of saying “actually, yes you do.” Which I think is useful to newer writers in reminding them what’s possible for them and their work.’
I am one of those newer writers and yes, I do think that way. But I’ve got nothing to lose so I guess it’s time to jump back in to the slush pile.
Scalzi, I didn’t think it was possible for me to adore you more. But now I do. Thank you for this; it is very timely.
Dangit! I’m shopping a manuscript around to agents right now, and EE was my “trial” submission, just to prove to myself that I had the balls to do it. Did you know that gmail truncates long messages, and doesn’t always tell you about it? I didn’t, until I had to send three separate messages to Ellenberg to properly get the pages they requested. Given the formatting and the broken messages, I doubt they even looked at it before hitting reject (or, well, hitting “delete,” since they don’t actually send rejections over email.) Now that I know what I’m doing and might actually be able to submit it properly, they’re actually LOOKING for new material.
I am cry. Stupid bad timing.
What’s the etiquette of contacting them on this if I’ve already contacted them previously? I’d be glad to send another query their way but not if it would annoy them.
I would suggest submitting with new work, as submitting old work which they had rejected will likely not result in a different outcome.
Would you mind responding to Deborah again, only saying the exact opposite, and meaning it? I’d appreciate it. :)
John Scalzi’s Whatever
Thank you. My novel is about a week away from being ready for submission, needs final tweaks on the ending and synopsis — you have just made my day! I’m thrilled. This totally rocks — maybe this is just meant to be, this is my year!
Thanks, John. That was sorta what I was afraid of. I have to do a major edit on the current one, though, so it’ll have to wait a bit.
Question about copyright:
Should I get a copyright for my work before I submit it to any publisher? My biggest hurdle is cutting the apron strings. Brain children grow up so fast these days….
Your work is copyrighted as soon as you write it, Lex. IIf you want to register your copyright (a different thing), then go ahead, but it’s not really necessary.
I’ve been writing a fiction work recently, and I think this sort of thing is just the encouragement I need to continue and fine tune it.
Scalzi, as a writer yourself what do you feel about the success of short stories and/or anthologies? It’s not related to my current work, but it’s something I’ve been curious about in our modern day. Recently I’ve enjoyed reading Harlan Ellison’s “Vic and Blood”. I’m simply wondering if at any point are short stories viable for an unpublished writer.
I’m finishing up a YA fantasy novel and had been considering EE. It’s awesome to hear that they are actively looking for new fantasy work. Thanks for sharing this, John: you da Man!
Sniff, sniff. Hundreds of self-pubs this way comes.
Dammit! Sucked into another self-pub’s link, read the first page of their debut novel, eleven typos and twenty-four grammatical arrows. Not bad, for a self-pub.
I haven’t been able to wash the stink of self-publishing off my Macbook Air yet, so I suppose I’ll have to pass. This time.
As always, thanks for looking out for little old me, Scalzi.
@ 36 MBL
you mean that if you send the same thing again, you’re likely to get the same answer?
@ 44 DirtyWizardHunting
What do typos and self-pub have to do with each other?
What do vowels and consonants have to do with each other?
No, really. Explain to me why self-publishing means no spell-checker and no knowledge of spelling and/or grammar.
Yes, Nathareee, author mills and print-on-demand titles are all rage nowadays. If you are interesting in such writing, then I highly recommend Atlanta Nights. It’s a lovely read. If you’re impressed with AN, then perhaps you should check out the top-selling science fiction fantasy novels at Lulu and Booksurge. There are thousands of jems just waiting for such readers as yourself. Happy reading.
Well, at least I’m happy to see you’re not a spelling/grammar nazi yourself.
I was just wondering why you seem to think there is a connection between self-pub and bad spelling/grammar.
It’s not that self-pub consists solely of poorly spelled/poorly constructed books, it’s that those types of errors get weeded out at a far, far, far greater rate in traditional publishing than they do in self-publishing.
Any given book in self-publishing can be well-written. It’s just that many aren’t.
Thanks for the post, JS. I shall file this for use early next year, following the week-long workshop in Oregon. Don’t have a novel worth pitching yet, but will by then.
Caterpillars and Butterflies
Self-published writers, the veterans anyway, are tired of trudging heavily through the slush piles in New York. So they opt for greener pastures. Well, green if they bother to read through the color-by-numbers POD handbook. But judging from what I’ve read in the past, I’m assuming most science fiction fantasy writers on Lulu are color blind. That said, not all self-pubs are vain and self deluded. Some are quite the entrepreneurs. Some are brilliant. Some are downright ingenious. Yep, the top 1% of anything is usually more buoyant than the lower 99%. Up good, down bad. Quite simple, actually.
On other hand, on the far side of the gene pool, professional writers have evolved, mutated, made the necessary changes necessary to survive in the hostile and increasingly more inhospitable environment of trade publishing. Many have sprouted wings, like our good host here. Gone through one form of metamorphosis or another. They’re the butterflies, the airy ones of the publishing world; the self-pubs the lowly caterpillar, the suspenders. I suppose you lose all sense of perspective when you’re suspended in an animation of their own creation for long enough. Heck, you’d probably forget how to spell chrysalis by summer’s end.
Now I suppose the answer to your question depends on whether you crawl of fly. If you crawl, like say A. Square, then all you see, or perceive for that matter, is the dimension below you, that being the first. You can’t see the connection between things, like say the connection between self-pub and bad spelling/grammar. If you fly, then you’re in Spaceland. You can see the interconnectedness of most things below and around you. In the world of publishing, you’re godlike.
That said, it’s time for my caterpillar-to-butterfly meds, so I must be off. $99.99/bottle, guaranteed to land me an agent and a nectar-rich book deal within three years, or my money back. All $3,600 of my inherited greenbacks, as stated in the fine micrographic print of my publishing contract. I just received my first bottle from DellArte Press. Strangely, the pills are stored in brand new Vicodin bottles. That’s weird. New seals and everything. Anyway, toodaloo, catepillar.
Dirty Wizard Hunter,
In answer to all of the people who imply that JS is just pulling up the ladder because he is a meany, not paolo I get it, I would point out the one thing he hasn’t said which really should be said. Some writers work isn’t worth 1/5th of a cent per word. They should be pursuing another line of work because what they produce as a writer is drek. I am not pointing this out to be mean. It is just a fact of life. All the hard work and dedication in the world won’t matter if you don’t have the talent. The reality is that it takes all the hard work AND dedication AND talent. This is true in any creative endeavour. Look at American Idol auditions. Most of them are train wrecks. Painful to watch and entertaining only to masochists.
sounds like those drugs aren’t doing you much good, DitryWizardHunter. Maybe you need a break. Might help with the delusions about butterflies and flying.
Anyway, thanks mr. Scalzi. I’ll be sending my manuscript along soon.
One thing about self publishing versus any other type of publishing — while it can work and be cost effective for people who are good at marketing their work, there’s a host of services any publisher that pays you will put in that those POD places charge for.
Like a copy editor going over it to check for the typos and grammatical errors, an editor going over it for areas of misplaced emphasis. No matter how well a writer edits his or her own work, there will be something that other eyes catch that falls in a blind spot.
The amount of work needed and friends to help to turn a POD book into a finished publishable novel is much greater than going through pro publishers or even small press. Because those stupid things do crop up and you can’t see them after the 50th reread.
I did self publish years ago. The night before sending my manuscript in, a friend got back to me and asked “Who’s Rick?”
I’d changed a character’s name from Rick to James and missed one scene where I’d changed some and not all of his dialogue tags. So the strange character Rick, whose dialogue wasn’t as snappy as James’s, showed up in the middle of the scene without being introduced and completely confused her. I fixed it.
But we didn’t catch that till a couple of hours before sending it in.
That’s the sort of thing that any editor other than yourself will spot. In something as big as a novel there are bound to be weird little inconsistencies, sentences that don’t work and line editing problems. I happen to be a good natural speller, but other problems do arise.
Why not give your novel the best treatment and let someone else who’s making a good living checking and fixing those problems, a specialist, clear out all that junk? If the book’s good, it’ll make it all the way to where it pays for someone else to proof it before it hits print.
Besides, you have to pay to play with POD, more every year. With pro publishing or small press, they pay you. This could be a lot more cost effective even if it takes time and more work.
What I think POD rocks for is when there’s a small, real niche market for the book (usually topical nonfiction) that’s a bit too small for mass publishing to take on — and if you’re already in that little niche you know all the other people in it and probably where they hang out online or what magazines they read offline to advertise in.
For fiction, I think if it’d be good enough to earn a lot of money it’d get an editor’s attention. It just takes a lot of persistence and patience.
I’ve been wanting to submit to Mr. Ellenberg’s agency for years, and never quite worked up the nerve. Now I’ve done it. Thanks!
Dirty Wizard Hunter a nice bit of relative perspective-izing. Nice images. When you own the printing press, you can be your own publisher. So said Ben Franklin.
Thanks for this John. I do have one question: I’m hip deep in a novel that won’t be done for at least six months, quite possibly nine. It’s just the sort of thing the Ethan Ellenberg Agency are looking for but I know most agents and editors want the assurance of a complete manuscript when they read a query. Is there wiggle room if you can provide an outline and have two published novels on your resume? Or should I just chill out and wait until I have the finished MS in hand?
Reading over my comment again, It occurs to me my question pretty much answers itself. Why would you submit a half written novel? Anyway. I’ll definitely move them to the top of my list of agents to query when I’m done.
This is pretty interesting. Of course, I’m still at the stage of “write down a quick summary of whatever pops into your head because you have a 10 page paper due tomorrow, a 15 minute presentation next week and you’re going to be at the newspaper all night editing.”
Oh, sh*t, I do have a 10 page paper due tomorrow!
John, I have to thank you for this post again. I’d been procrastinating on those last edits on my novel. For the past two nights though, I’ve been plowing into it for eight to ten hour shifts. This rocks. I’m going to have it ready so soon!
All thanks to you and the hope that I can get an agent. My life would be a lot happier with one than submitting without one.
How bad form is it to query about a novel that’s still being written? Worse than bad?
Yes. Don’t query until you have something done, polished and ready to send.
Heh, that should go down as newbie mistake #0 :)
Rather belatedly, I want to second what John says about the Ethan Ellenberg Agency–especially since I was referenced by name in the letter Ethan sent out. I’ve been very happy with Ethan and his gang, too. They’re great to work with, they work hard for their writers, and they know the business inside and out. By all means, query Ethan if you’re ready to look for an agent. You couldn’t do better.
I’ll add a belated ditto to both John and Edward. As another of Ethan’s clients, I have nothing but praise for his agency. Ethan’s totally straightforward, low-key and committed to an author’s success, ready with great advice but never trying to dictate what should or shouldn’t be written. He’s not a show pony, he’s a serious workhorse.
Question: I’ve got an ms that’s about halfway finished, and about 90 polished pages. I’m a never-before-pubbed author. But my book is good. Even John Scalzi thought so, hi John, when I made a brief elevator pitch at Denvercon last year.
My question is: better to send now, or finish up (6 months at least) before sending?
Clearly because this need to be said in letters as large as possible, as it’s been asked more than once in this thread, and no one looks at previous comments:
NEVER SUBMIT TO AGENTS ANYTHING YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED.
Finish it. Then send your query.
OK. I hear ya. Thanks for the advice.
Great to read this, even better since I have a full with one of their agents as we speak. Fingers are still crossed (when not writing of course)
I have an idea for a story, plus a couple lines of dialogue I wrote on napkin. Is it too early to query do you think?